Poverty Law: Expanding Perspectives
By: Justice Sector Constellation
One of the reasons for an Access to Justice Week is that many people lack knowledge about how to address legal issues and where to find legal information. Also, people are often not aware of how legal issues may be related to other life challenges, or of the societal cost of unresolved legal issues.
The Justice Sector Constellation is a collective impact initiative that brings together justice sector administration, service providers and stakeholders to address systemic issues within the justice sector. The mission of the Constellation is to intervene at the intersection of poverty and the legal system so that everyone facing a legal issue can access the justice sector resources and services they need.
To that end, the Constellation developed Poverty and the Law: Expanding Perspectives, an educational module regarding the context, causes and impacts of poverty, and the intersection of poverty and the law. In light of what they have learned, the Module encourages participants to address client needs in a holistic manner, practice compassion with those facing economic hardship and vulnerability, and work for systemic changes that will benefit everyone.
An Instructor's Resource is available to facilitate instruction of the Module. Thanks to funding from the Enough for All Catalyst Fund, both the Module and the Instructor’s Resource are available at no cost.
The Module is being used by instructors in various faculties and departments in several post-secondary institutions in Calgary. In addition, content from the Module has been included in the bar admission course for lawyers in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Law societies across the country have made the Module available to their members for continuing education purposes.
Since its launch last year, over 250 people have taken the Module. Those who completed the Module include professionals and students in a variety of disciplines, including education, health care, law, psychology and social work. Participants overwhelmingly report that the Module increased their understanding of the causes and impacts of poverty, and of how poverty can contribute to legal problems and how legal problems can contribute to poverty. In addition, as a result of the Module, participants reported having confidence in addressing current and/or future client needs in a more holistic manner.
By raising awareness and encouraging engagement, the Constellation hopes to effect systemic change that will benefit us all. For other resources and more information about the Justice Sector Constellation, please visit https://justicesectorconstellation.ca/.
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